If we live in a world unredeemed, in the midst of lives unredeemed, we do not loose heart. Pesach, after all, really did occur once. It can happen again. Slaves can be made free with G-d’s help. Societies can be made more just with G-d’s help. The proof is our history.
We tell the story of Pesach to keep faith in goodness alive. This hope in goodness, this hope in justice, this hope in some Force in the universe which makes for moral law and balance, this is what we mean by faith in G-d. This is the hope held aloft by Pesach. What my mother used to call “Malcha Movets,” the Angel of Death, can be delayed. Indeed, sometimes he can pass over our houses. The cruel destroyer can be delayed so that the fullness of years can be enjoyed until a gentler messenger comes to take us from this life. There is a spirit of justice afoot in life and it sometimes wins. This is faith.
This is the faith we are commanded to teach our children. The seder revolves around the story of discovery of Something new and at the same time more ancient than our world itself. Then the story moves from slavery, degradation, and the Exodus to freedom and human dignity, as answers to our children’s questions. They must learn the faith that carries life in the face of fear and death. It is a faith that must be taught, as Moses taught it to us so long ago.
Life is more than being number one. Indeed, it has little to do with numbers. Numbers and place in the line are for those who have never been taught the faith, so they have little faith in themselves unless they can see their place in line ahead of others and count off the numbers which assure them they count for something. But life is only in a very narrow way (one of the meanings of the Hebrew word for Egypt – “mitzrayim” – “narrow,” or “constrained”) about numbers. Life is about feeling, creating, healing, hoping, sharing who we are with life and the people that fill our living – this is life. And when we forget this, as we often do – well – Pesach comes in the springtime to remind us.
Rabbi Donald Tam is rabbi emeritus of Temple Beth Tikvah in Roswell.